The vice presidential debate Thursday night was riveting and action-packed. Republican candidate Paul Ryan came out on his toes, bringing his big book o’ statistics with him. Current Vice President Joe Biden more than made up for President Obama’s laconic and idle performance in the first presidential debate, laughing openly at Ryan and mocking his ideas.
But even through all the excitement of the battling men, one thing became increasingly clear: This debate didn’t really matter.
And it isn’t because the office of the vice president doesn’t matter. Anything but that, in fact. The vice president, while acting as the president of the U.S. Senate, does much to influence and steer policy-making. In his/her regular duties, the VP is used for everything from international diplomacy, to casting tiebreaking votes, to presiding over the proceedings of the Electoral College itself.
But this debate didn’t really matter, because neither man really brought an original or individual idea to the table.
Ryan seems like an admirable man, and definitely plays that part for the sake of his political career, but he is also a shill for Republican ideologies and was clearly given all of his ideas before the debate. Though he is considered a conservative wunderkind by his backers for his work on budgeting plans, he was only allowed to bring so much of that to the table in this debate. The fresh-faced Boy Scout expended most of his efforts talking about what the Obama administration was doing wrong, without offering many specific solutions (ironically, one of Romney and Ryan’s biggest talking points has been that Obama blames everything on Bush).
Biden is always entertaining, and could probably be called the “winner” of the debate, if there is such a thing. He brought a lot more specific information and answers, but his overall smugness was off-putting and may have erased any advantage he gained through his talking points. Biden did provide the one unpredictable and powerful moment of the debate when he brought up Romney’s “47 percent” gaffe (and Biden knows a thing or two about saying things he shouldn’t have).
At least to me (and I’m probably wrong), I much preferred the tone of the first presidential debate. It felt like a PBS documentary: It was cold, sterile, and both candidates were able to say the things they actually thought. This vice presidential debate was just the opposite. It was a summer blockbuster, directed by Jerry Bruckheimer and Michael Bay. We’re supposed to clap and laugh at the explosions and the car wrecks, and never really notice that neither man was saying much that was substantial.